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Fighting in martial-arts course to be reduced
Posted on Mon, Oct 4, 2010 at 6:38 am
by IDMA Editor

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — The Marine Corps is creating new guidelines for its top martial arts instructors that will dial back fighting and place greater emphasis on teaching.

Marines who attend the seven-week Martial Arts Instructor Trainer Course at Quantico’s Martial Arts Center of Excellence learn how to train and certify Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructors, but “some things had crept into [the curriculum] that weren’t really about training instructors,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, commanding general of Training Command.

Staff Sgt. Michael Jones, an instructor at Quantico, Va., uses instructor Sgt. Steven Richardson to demostrate how to disarm an advancing enemy

Brogan, who took over at Training Command in July, declined to discuss prospective changes, saying the new program of instruction will be sorted out in a course curriculum review board this fall. He did, however, hint at a couple of reasons for the revision.

The instructor trainer course has become “more about advanced fighting techniques and endurance, and we need to teach instructors to be instructors, not how to be better fighters,” Brogan said, adding that the Corps teaches those techniques in MCMAP’s black belt courses. “Those are the guys who need the fighting skills taught to them — not people who are teaching the instructors.”

The course, held three times a year, graduates about 180 Marines annually. While at Quantico, they learn from a staff of about 25 instructor trainers. The course teaches some techniques, but there is considerable emphasis on how to teach others in a classroom setting and convey MCMAP’s ethical lessons.

These revisions have been in the works for some time, said one instructor trainer with knowledge of the plan who contacted Marine Corps Times but withheld his name for fear his dissatisfaction with it would get him in trouble. Any proposed changes to the instructor trainer course, he said, would represent an attack on MCMAP as a whole. Senior leaders are too concerned with safety, even though the program has built-in safety measures, he said.

“People above us are trying to change things because there are certain people who don’t believe in the program or don’t want to do it,” he said. “We think the program is losing its reputation for being something for which you have to be physically and mentally tough.”

The Martial Arts Instructor Trainer Course, by most accounts, is a tough one.

“I loved it. It was probably the hardest seven weeks in the Marine Corps and the most rewarding,” said 1st Lt. Kristin Dalton, a black-belt instructor trainer at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. The infusion of advanced fighting techniques does not appear deliberate, she added.

“They do include a lot of supplemental information, but it wasn’t incorporated into the course, it was more, ‘this is how other martial artists do it.’ At the end of the work day at release, some guys would stay behind and do additional stuff. They have a passion for it,” she said.

The next instructor trainer course is slated to run in February, Brogan said. He expects to sign off on the new program of instruction before then.

Other revisions to MCMAP should be unveiled around the same time, Maj. Gen. Melvin Spiese, who until August was commander of Training and Education Command, said this summer. Spiese is now deputy commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Those changes could cut training hours and require all Marines to attain at least a green belt, the third of five stages in MCMAP’s curriculum, officials said earlier this year. They were expected to roll out several months ago but have been delayed.

Lt. Gen. George Flynn, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, lauded MCMAP’s popularity among Marines, but cautioned against allowing it to tip too far into fighting at the expense of the lessons it is supposed to instill.

“There has to be not only the combative parts of it, but it’s the values piece. As long as those two stay in balance, I think the program is staying in the way it was initially envisioned,” Flynn said in an interview with Marine Corps Times. “If you focus on just the combative aspects of it, I think we’re missing a key part that this was initially supposed to be a values part of our ethos, in terms of what we are teaching.”

Officials also need to consider the time constraints facing commanders already burdened with a high operational tempo, he said.

“That’s the one resource nobody can add,” Flynn said. “It goes back to how much time does a commander have, and where does MCMAP fit in their priorities.”

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